Black people more likely to be arrested, charged, shot and killed by Toronto police, Ontario Human Rights Commission finds

Posted on August 10, 2020 in Child & Family Policy Context

Source: — Authors: , – GTA

Black people are more likely to be arrested, charged, shot and killed by Toronto police than white people and other racialized groups, according to new “highly disturbing” research released by the Ontario Human Rights Commission Monday.

An analysis of Toronto police arrest and charge data from 2013 to 2017 found Black people were “grossly overrepresented” in every charge category examined and “significantly” more likely than white people to be arrested and charged, according to “A Disparate Impact,” a new OHRC report released this week, the second report in the commission’s ongoing inquiry into racial profiling by the Toronto Police Service.

Overall, the charge rate for Black people was 3.9 times greater than for white people, and 7.1 times greater than other racialized groups, according to the report.

The results are “highly disturbing, and confirm what Black communities have said for decades — that Black people bear a disproportionate burden of law enforcement,” the OHRC said in a statement.

“The time for debate about whether anti-Black bias exists is over,” Ena Chadha, OHRC Interim Chief Commissioner, said in a statement. “It is time to make transformative changes in the institutions and systems of law enforcement that produce such disparate outcomes — community trust and safety, especially the safety of Black lives, depend on it.”

The report is the second instalment of the OHRC’s inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black people by the Toronto Police Service, launched in 2017.

The report, prepared by a team of researchers led by University of Toronto criminologist Scot Wortley, found that although Black people represent 8.8 per cent of Toronto’s population, Black people represented 32 per cent of the charges in the data set.

The researchers focused on nine categories of charges, including obstruct justice, assaulting police, cannabis possession, trespassing and failure to comply with a condition, undertaking or recognizance. The charges were chosen in part because they involve a high degree of discretion on the part of the officer.

According to the report, Black people represented almost one-third, or 32 per cent, of all the charges in the charge data set, while White people and other racialized groups were under-represented.

The report also showed:

  • Black people represented 42.5 per cent of those charged with obstruct justice charges, meaning they were 4.8 times more likely to face this charge than their representation in the general population.
  • Black people represented 35 per cent of people involved in what the OHRC called “out-of-sight” driving charges, such as driving without insurance, “which are charges that only arise after a stop has already taken place, suggesting other motives for the stop,” the report says.
  • Charges against Black people were more likely to be withdrawn and less likely to result in a conviction, according to the report, raising “systemic concerns about charging practices.” Only 1/5 of all charges in the data resulted in a conviction.

Monday’s OHRC research also included an update to the commission’s report on Toronto police use of force, which in December 2018 found that Black people were “grossly over-represented,” especially in fatal shootings.

According to the new data, Black people were involved in a quarter of all Toronto police-involved cases taken on by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) between 2013 and 2017; the watchdog probes police-involved death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.

The research found that Black people were involved in nearly four in 10 instances of “lower-level use of force” — meaning the SIU was not called in to investigate.

“This over-representation cannot be explained by factors such as patrol zones in low-crime and high-crime neighbourhoods, violent crime rates and/or average income,” according to the OHRC.

Chadha, the interim chief commissioner of the OHRC, is calling on Toronto police, city council and the province to “take immediate action to address systemic and anti-Black racism in policing and to respect and protect racialized people in Toronto.”

The OHRC said Monday that the arrest and charge data shows that Black people, particularly Black males, are “more likely to be proactively arrested, charged and subjected to uses of force in a wide range of police interactions.”

“This adds an important dimension to the current conversation and reflects the everyday racism Black communities face,” the OHRC said in a statement. “These reports and the findings they contain add considerable weight to the groundswell of calls for systemic reform to policing services.”

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